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Breakpoint currently unavailable. I'm working hard to this happen, I PROMISE.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A post by
Damian Rafferty
Q+A SERIES
August 15, 2023

Wagging the long tail

Wagging the long tail

A post by
Damian Rafferty
August 15, 2023
XX
min read

Many years ago, I curated a video channel focussed on folk music from rural India for a London museum. Most of the videos had humble numbers of views but one, a wedding song from the Punjab, had huge numbers of views and the increased reach for the museum was very valuable and welcome. I guess it was fair to say we stumbled upon the value of niche content.

So what would it mean to build an entire strategy on niche content? Chris Anderson wrote a best-seller espousing this idea, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More almost 20 years ago. In essence, if you can own enough niches, you can make money without having to fight Goliath.

In the context of video on demand, long tail content refers to offering a large selection of specialised videos that cater to specific interests and tastes. This is in contrast to offering a smaller selection of more popular and mainstream videos.

Its tutorials on everything from make up tips to DIY, niche music content, influencers' style tips and deranged rants from blowhards has created an entire economy for better or worse.

According to Deloitte Insights, streaming video on demand (SVOD) has enjoyed a boom, with an estimated 21% boost in consumer spending on subscriptions in the first half of 2021. While SVOD players seek subscriber growth and reckon with churn, consumers are still guided by cost and content. People—especially younger generations—are managing costs by adopting ad-supported options, looking for discounts and bundles, and moving on and off services to meet their content needs.

Niche streaming services have the potential to co-exist with the giants of OTT (over-the-top) media services. These smaller SVOD and AVOD (advertising-based video-on-demand) services are betting that specialisation will reduce subscriber churn and provide a surer future. For example, streaming services such as Crunchyroll and Funimation have specialized in bringing content that was previously unavailable over to new shores.

One could argue that the best representation of niche content being profitable in aggregate would be YouTube. Its tutorials on everything from make up tips to DIY, niche music content, influencers' style tips and deranged rants from blowhards has created an entire economy for better or worse. Podcasting also shows the appeal of niche content. The problem for content creators without millions of followers though is that the money raised stays mainly with the platform.

Ostmodern worked with Maidthorn on designs for their successful arts platform Marquee TV and, more recently, on a dedicated Country Music site and apps called CountryLine TV. Both have significant numbers of highly dedicated subscribers enjoying content that is hard to find elsewhere. Because Maidthorn has such a close relationship with its subscribers, it can build its business on servicing well-defined needs that go beyond video on demand.

What we've learned from working with these and many other niche content players is that success or failure hangs on one single task being done correctly: know your users. No matter how well you think you know an audience, properly conducted user research will always humble and enlighten you. Get that right and build from there. Having our own in-house team of experts makes the process infinitely faster and more integrated. We can turn things round in weeks, whereas agencies without in-house user research teams may require months to achieve the same results.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have a bunch of beer brewing, jazz and fly fishing videos to watch.

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